GOP's new filibuster strategy: A giant temper tantrum

Angry that they can't just block every Democratic nominee anymore, Republicans have a pathetic, annoying new plan

Published December 20, 2013 12:44PM (EST)

  (Jeff Malet, Cameron/Jonathan Ernst)
(Jeff Malet, Cameron/Jonathan Ernst)

Senate Republicans are still so piping mad over the filibuster changes on nominations that, well ... they're going to cede total control of the chamber to Harry Reid and the Democrats over the weekend. Take that!

For the past couple of weeks, Senate Republicans have not been granting unanimous consent to shorten debate periods and bring various nominations to the floor, slowing the chamber's schedule by using up all of the allotted debate time on each nomination. That's continuing now with the 10 or so remaining nominations on the calendar year. (Unless Democrats and Republicans can agree to some sort of deal -- ha ha -- unconfirmed nominees would have to be renominated in the new year.) Reid seems to have settled on getting through four of the nominations before adjourning for the year, and getting everyone out of town sometime mid to late weekend after working around the clock for the next couple of days.

Now word is coming in that Democrats' friends across the aisle may not even stick around for this weekend's #senateparty. Daddy Cornyn says they can all go home and he and a few others will stick around to finish off the important work of annoying Democrats for no reason. From the Hill:

Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn (Texas) said it is up to individual senators if they want to stick around Congress on Friday and Saturday to vote on nominees Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has put on the schedule.

Cornyn said his leadership would make sure at least one Republican senator remains on or near the floor at all times to object to Democratic requests to waive various procedural hurdles.

“I’m not sure how many Republicans will stick around,” said one GOP senator. “I don’t think the Democrats remembered how important it is to get unanimous consent on little things to make this place work.”

Right, because it was working so well before the filibuster changes. The fact is, it's working pretty fine now. People are getting confirmed. It's just taking some time while one party gets a temper tantrum out of its system. Because it is just a tantrum. The GOP lawmaker quoted in the Hill pretends there is some tactical goal here besides just making Democrats work another 48 hours to show them what's what. The lawmaker "predicted Democrats may have trouble gaining the 51 votes they need for a quorum to move the nominees if most Republicans take off." Well, there are more than 51 Democratic members of Congress and "at least one Republican senator" will have to stick around to execute the objection shenanigans, so that's >51, so there you go. Tantrum, and nothing more.

They're welcome to a tantrum, of course. It's probably sucks to have your ability to block all nominees for no reason other than to make the other party look ineffectual taken away. So, sure, spend a couple of weeks forcing Senate Democrats to waste some hours, and maybe even duck out of work a couple of days early. In fact, why ever come back?

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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